Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Uncapturable

My good friend who blogs at A New Career in a New Town has been reading some uninspiring books lately. I can't say the same. Geoff Dyer's Out of Sheer Rage is almost too good, the kind of thing that could easily keep me from trying to write something of my own. I'm trying to use it, instead, as inspiration. Dyer's approach in the book is not unlike filmmaker Ross McElwee's approach in the documentary Sherman's March. Each of them sets out to understand a subject and ends up talking mostly about himself. Dyer gets much closer to his ostensible subject, D.H. Lawrence, than McElwee does to Sherman, but both works posit life as inscrutable, terrifyingly (and exhilaratingly) subjective, essentially uncapturable but worth trying to capture. I've been working on and off on my own idea for a nonfiction book (working on the idea, not the book, alas), and perhaps there's something to learn about the possibilities for it from Dyer and McElwee. Well, of course there is.

Another question is whether Dyer will inspire me to read Lawrence. I'm torn. On the one hand, I remember reading stories of his in college and not being particularly interested. One of my smartest friends thinks The Rainbow is awful. There's so much to read, and Lawrence wasn't very high on my list. Should Dyer's own wonderfulness bump him up? It helps that Dyer argues most for the value of the letters and travel diaries, which I might be more drawn to at this particular time than, say, Sons and Lovers. I've put a few of his books in my Amazon cart, tentatively. Whether I end up ordering them or deleting them, only time will tell. It's a tenuous position Dyer would understand very well.


Blogger ANCIANT said...

I'm not sure which of your friends thinks the Rainbow is awful, but I'm going to second their nomination. I made myself read it a while back and I can tell you now: it's not worth it. Danger, Will Robinson, danger.

The last positive essay I read about Lawrence, in the NYRB I think, argued that he's at his best in his short fiction. It recommended some of his stories, specifically (I think?) "The Fox." I also remember loving "The Rocking Horse Winner", which I read in school. You might go there, if you're interested.

12:56 PM  

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